We all need a good story

People are really hungry for a good philanthropic story. You probably heard the story of or saw the photo last week posted on the NY Police Department’s Facebook page.  A young officer giving a homeless and shoeless man on the street a new pair of shoes and thermal socks.

The back story went like this: Officer Deprimo was working in a counter-terrorism post in Times Square and came upon a shoeless, homeless man one cold November evening.  After speaking with him the officer went to a nearby shoe store at 9:30 pm and purchased a pair of $100 size 12 all-weather boots for the man. A tourist from Arizona was passing by and took a picture of the officer kneeling down next to the man.  She sent it just last week to the police department who then posted it on their Facebook page.

The picture went “viral,” as they say, and the rest is history: millions of views in the past week and all those Facebook “likes.”  I talked about this story on Friday when I was in Catawba County, and lots of people nodded their heads that they had seen the picture.  An act of kindness that showed a real human element. 

The best part of the story is the fact that the officer shared that he had kept the receipt in his pocket to remind himself that others had it worse than he did. As is often the case, the giver often gets back much more than they give.

I would like to end here, and with that message. But unfortunately yesterday the New York Times did a follow-up story and discovered that the homeless man was again shoeless.  Frightened by having such a “valuable” piece of property, he had hidden the shoes away so they would not get stolen. 

Clearly none of us will solve the world’s problems in one generous act.  Like many of the issues facing our communities, homelessness is quite a complex problem — and one that needs more than donations of food and clothing.

I now could put in a plug for endowments and perpetuity, or working together to address our community problems, but I think that I will just stick to the fact that the officer continues to feel good about his charitable act, and it has provided inspiration to millions of others who can help to make a difference in their communities.

We all need a good story.